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Dear Future Grandchild, We Can’t Wait for You to Arrive

Susan Byrum Rountree wrote this beautiful letter to her grandson a few weeks before he was born. It first appeared in the News & Observer and is reprinted with permission. Susan is the author of Nags Headers, a regional history set on the North Carolina Outer Banks, and In Mother Words, a collection of essays. Her column appears monthly in the News & Observer. Susan has written for newspapers and magazines throughout the southeast for almost 40 years. She can be reached at susanbrountree@gmail.com.

Dear Little Wiggles,

You don’t have a name yet, so your parents have taken to calling you by what you do – Wiggle – as we all wait for you to arrive. In just a few weeks, doctors say, you’ll make your debut. But for now we can only speculate: Are you a boy or girl? Right-handed or left? (Maybe left, since early on the ultrasound revealed an amazing left hook.) Will you have the deep blue eyes of your great-grandmother or the brown pools that are your mother’s?

I’ve been keeping track of your growth on something called BabyCenter, which is where expectant grandmothers can visit to find out everything they have forgotten – and a lot they never knew – about babies growing inside the womb. Each week I find an email in my box, telling me that you are the size of a pea or an eggplant or a pineapple, and I don’t think I’ll ever look at a butternut squash without thinking of you, and that’s the truth.

We’ve learned when your fingernails came in and when your eyes could open a little bit, and it’s been a miracle to watch all this happening inside the child who was once growing exactly like that, inside me. It will be our extreme honor to meet you and to watch you grow – the first new human member of our little family in more than 30 years.

Oh, you have a host of cousins ready and waiting for you, some of them only babies themselves – and an extended group of aunts and uncles and great aunts and uncles – not to mention grandparents on both sides of your family who are all about to bust to meet you. You’ll have two great-grandmothers, both in their ninth decade, who will have much to teach you. And the dog? You’ll love her from your first seconds of knowing her.

You’re being born into a creative and caring family of artists and writers and doctors, teachers and craftsmen, and we can’t wait to see how you’ll create your own unique place in it. You are both Yankee and Southerner, which is probably the best kind of lineage. Though Central Park will be your playground, you’ll be building castles out of North Carolina beach sand in no time, and that’s only a start.

As you begin your stretch into the world, I thought you should know a few things about your people.

Your father will always wear a Santa hat at Christmas. He will find the very gift that makes you laugh the most, and he is left-handed (like me), and so he writes and cuts his food in ways that people watching think is painful. (It is not.) He can enter a room full of strangers and leave it knowing everyone as a friend.

Your mother will bring light and color into your life from your very first moments, and she will open your eyes to things in the world only she can see. She will teach you how to treat everyone with kindness and respect and to make a new friend every single day.

Your paternal grandfather can take a pencil and hatch the finest of lines on paper into a work of art you’ll study when you visit. Your paternal grandmother will teach how to win at Quiddler, and when you’re in high school, she’ll help you interpret your AP reading list – not an easy thing to do.

Your mother’s father will hum to you as he holds you up, and he will take you sailing – he already has a pint-sized life vest to put you in – and show you how to watch the water for the wind. He’ll let you put stickers all over his face at playtime (and that’s a lot of stickers). And he’ll teach you to embrace your 1/4th Georgia Cracker lineage with sayings like “tighter than Dick’s hatband” and “crooked as a dog’s hind leg.”

Me? Well, with me, you’ll know a towhee from a titmouse and learn to make yeast rolls lighter than air. I’ll give you circus peanuts when your mother isn’t looking and tell you a story about the man who loved them. And I’ll take you down a country road with the windows rolled down so you can smell the peanuts drying in the fields.

Wiggles, your family is bursting with love for you already, but the fact is that you will be born into a very troubled world filled with people so angry that they only want to spew hurt.

But what I want you to know more than anything is this: Your people are not part of that angry world. We are certain God is at work, despite all the anger we see. We know the power of prayer and action. And we hope to make a difference in our corner by sharing the joy of the world, not what takes it away – so many things to share with you that we may not get to them all before our time is up.

There are Crayolas to put to paper, tomato sandwiches lathered with Duke’s to eat, snowflakes to catch and owls to listen to, hooting at dawn. There are swings to glide in so high you’ll want to kick the clouds, and seeds to plant that will become peonies and daffodils and corn for the table. There are blanket forts to build and trees to climb and costumes to make out of discarded cardboard. Butterflies to meet and sing to, seashells to hear the ocean wind, and a whole Milky Way to show you how easy it is to paint the sky.

The world is a marvel, Wiggles, and we have so, so much to share.

3 thoughts on “Dear Future Grandchild, We Can’t Wait for You to Arrive”

  1. That was an amazing letter for your grandson to have. I’m sure it will be one of his most valuable keepsakes.

    The picture that you painted, with your pen, paper, and heart, of the family that he was born into is delightful. When he is old enough to read it, I’m sure he will feel very lucky and grateful for his family.

    I hope the joy he brings to your family strengthens the bonds of all of the relationships that he is a part of.

  2. Diane Levinson

    That was really sweet to read. A nice idea to promote when we have a future GAGA attend, because, of course, each baby is born into it’s own unique family.
    Funny how she remarked about the left handed-ness. I am a lefty and have only one out of 7 that is too. Randy and Jackie are lefties and her father is as well as I am. And both their boys are right handed. I’ve heard that it’s not inherited, but never heard a good explanation — except that they say, “We are the only ones in our ‘RIGHT MIND.’ “… but that’s more of a joke.

  3. ~~ Thank You ~~ That was beautiful. I confess , with my first grandchild, I sat on the floor by his crib and contentedly watched him breath, wanting to remember his babyhood forever. He is now a senior in high school.

    Savor every moment.

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